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Sharing fun helps build communities, too

It is almost time for the two twin events of autumn ‘ Halloween and elections. I like them both. You might say they do have something in common ‘ they are both scary. For me, though, it is a lot scarier to not have silly fun holidays or to not have political campaigns and elections. Both of these traditions are instrumental in building a strong community, and you all know how I feel about that.
I’ve worked enough in ex-Soviet countries where people walk around in the gray somberness of communist conditioning to know what I favor. Oh, they wear masks in ex-Soviet countries but not masks of playfulness. They use psychological cover-ups that hide ideas and emotions they fear will not be acceptable to the powers that be. Don’t stand out in the crowd, they have learned. Don’t volunteer. Don’t be innovative in an open way. Actions and thoughts are hidden or not expressed. Just the setting in which the corruptions of black markets, bribes, kickbacks and the mob itself thrive.
At times, our political campaigning may look silly itself. After all, we have parades with signs and candy and candidates. We cook up lots of chicken, chili and coleslaw, and eat it while we listen to speeches. And we knock ourselves out raising money, going door-to-door and handing out cards with pictures and names of candidates. But somewhere in all this mix are valid discussions of issues with which we as a community must wrestle.
Now I do think our imperfect representative democracy is just that. But, it sure beats the systems where a small group of men go into a room and one comes out the leader. And I do prefer our campaigns to the passing down in family the crown of authority. We do not line up military personnel and send them out with guns to take over the government. We may have some unnecessary name calling and even a bit of harsher rhetoric, but after the ballots are cast, we do a pretty good job of marching off to the tasks at hand in a bipartisan manner.
It is pretty obvious that I see the need for government in our society. The night Katrina hit the Gulf Coast that belief in the value of an organized body representing the needs of people was confirmed. Individuals could not by themselves handle the crisis that hit. What had been a harsh natural disaster became a horrendous human disaster when systems and institutions failed. Life is too complex, and we are too self-consumed to be left to do our ‘own thing,’ even on most non-eventful days.
I wasn’t raised in a politically active family. I married into a family of public servants and became committed. I saw the purpose involvement in civic affairs gave to their lives. Over the years, I realized the enormous responsibility our form of government places on all of us. We are to choose who leads, and we have to live with the results. No room for a nonchalant attitude here. We have to understand the conditions in our communities and the issues that result. And that isn’t easy. It takes learning, understanding, analyzing, discussion, debates and decisions. It is much easier to cop out by saying that all politics are crummy and one doesn’t want to be involved. Such an appraisal is indeed self fulfilling. When I realized that if I didn’t get involved, someone else would and perhaps someone with totally different ideas of what was important and what wasn’t, I was motivated to jump into the fray.
After years of listening to legislation being debated, policy being formed and programs being established, all in the name of good government, I have to say I think most people care about the communities they serve and are honest and committed. My respect for people who are public servants is great.
In this rapidly changing world where we find we are all now connected to each other, we better figure out how to manage our environment, our social conduct, our religious and political differences and our economic interests or we face disaster. We need the best minds and the most perceptive and caring souls among us to jump in and help make it all work for everyone. You may be one of these whom we need.
After all this spouting-about on my part, if on Halloween night someone 5-feet, 5-inches comes wearing an Uncle Sam costume, remember that she needs to lose weight and sugar-fat-free candy is highly prized.